Baseball Hall of Fame: 2019
The Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2019 was selected by the Baseball Writers of America and the names released last month. What about these selections? Did they get the best four players not already selected? If not, who are the best four players, eligible, but not yet selected? Are all four within the mainstream of others chosen? We’re going to study these questions.
Let’s first stipulate that there is a difference between a 1st ballot Hall of Famer and a 2nd ballot, 3rd ballot, etc. Every year you get some sanctimonious sportswriter write how anyone could not vote for a certain player for 9 years, and then in his final year of eligibility vote him in. If the player’s a Hall of Famer in his last year of eligibility, then he was obviously a Hall of Famer in his first year of eligibility. Well, it’s not that simple. How else do you differentiate between Stan Musial and Ralph Kiner (two National League outfielders in the 1940s and 1950s). Musial was one of the all time greats, while Kiner is in the lower half of the players selected. It’s our opinion that Kiner was a legitimate selection, but Musial was the definition of a 1st ballot Hall of Famer (Kiner was in his 13th year of eligibility). It does matter how many times one was on the ballot before they were enshrined.
First the four selected:
Roy Halladay: 1998-2013 Career record; 203 wins 105 losses. 8-Time All Star, 2-Time Cy Young Award Winner. Also finished in top five of Cy Young vote 7 times. 64.3 WAR (Wins above Replacement)
Halladay was probably the best pitcher in baseball from 2002 until 2011. His career win total is very low compared to other Hall of Fame pitchers, but his peak was higher than most. While he was playing, he was considered one of the very best players in baseball. His career ended suddenly with an arm injury at age 37. 2019 was Halladay’s first time on the ballot, and he easily qualified, earning 85.4% of the vote on his first ballot. Of the other starting pitchers currently on the ballot, Halladay probably rates 2nd (behind Roger Clemens). Halladay is clearly above the line for Hall of Fame starting pitchers, but his 1st ballot selection seems to put him in a group he does not belong in. The last three starting pitchers to be elected on the 1st ballot are; Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. Halladay was not an equal to any of the three. Yes we know that there is a strong sympathy vote for Halladay due to his untimely death in 2017 in an airplane crash, so his 1st ballot selection is understandable, but A Sip of Sports would not have voted for him on the 1st ballot. After that an easy yes.
Edgar Martinez: 1987-2004 Career record: 312 batting average, 309 home runs, 1261 RBI. 7 time all star, finished in the top 10 for MVP 2 times (3rd in 1995, 6th in 2000). 68.4 WAR (Wins above Replacement)
Martinez’ career was during during one of the best offensive eras in baseball history, his offensive numbers would clearly qualify him as a 3rd baseman. Unfortunately, he started only 532 games at 3rd, while he started 28 games at 1st, and 1396 games at Designated Hitter. That’s over 70% of his starts at DH. This is the first time that a player who was primarily a DH has been selected. It’s obvious that the HOF voters had their doubts, since this was his 10th (and final) ballot. Fred McGriff was also on the ballot for his 10th and final time. He garnered only 39.8% of the vote and is now off the ballot. McGriff should have been selected before Martinez! Others on the ballot more deserving than Edgar include; Larry Walker, Jeff Kent, and Todd Helton. Scott Rolen started 1994 games in his career at 3rd base and none at DH with a .281 lifetime average with 316 Home runs and 1287 RBI (70.2 WAR), and he didn’t get in. Martinez received 85.4% of the vote, so he cleared the 70% threshold easily. DH’s are not complete baseball players, for that reason he would never have gotten an affirmative vote from A Sip of Sports.
Mike Mussina: 1991-2008 Career Record 270 Wins 153 Losses. 5-time All Star, no Cy Young Awards, finished in top five of Cy Young Vote 6 times. 83.0 WAR
Mussina was a quality pitcher for many years, finally winning 20 games for the first time in his last season at age 39. He had a Don Sutton, Tommy John, Bert Blyleven type career. He was never considered among the best pitchers in baseball, but was a solid staff anchor for 16 years. His 270 wins seems to be the modern base, to get in, for this type of pitcher. Sutton and Blyleven are in the HOF, but they finished their careers with 324 and 287 wins respectively, while John didn’t get in with 288 wins. Mussina’s WAR number is quite good, better than Roy Halladay’s, but he never reached the peak of performance Halladay did.
Is he the best starting pitcher on the ballot to not be in? Well, Roger Clemens isn’t in, so that’s a pretty high standard, but Curt Schilling is still on the outside looking in, and we would put Schilling in before Mussina. Mussina is a tough call, this was his 6th year on the ballot, so he would have had four more tries. Our vote this year would have been “No”, but we could be convinced that a “Yes” vote later would be appropriate.
Mariano Rivera: 1995-2013 Career Record 82 Wins 60 Losses 652 Saves. 13-time All Star, no Cy Young Awards, finished top five of Cy Young Vote 5 times. Finished 9th in MVP Vote 2 times. 56.2 WAR.
Rivera holds the record for most career Saves. He’s probably the greatest “Closer” of all time. This sounds more impressive than it actually is. Today’s closer’s are very overrated. Mariano Rivera participated in 1115 games, this is 4th all time, but he only pitched 1283 innings in those 1115 games (an average of 1.15 innings an appearance). He generally wouldn’t enter a game unless the Yankees were leading entering the 9th inning. Think of the top relief pitchers of earlier years. Hoyt Wilhelm pitched 2254 innings, almost twice as many as Rivera. Rollie Fingers pithed in only 944 games, but hurled 1701 innings, Goose Gossage participated in 1002 games, but 1809 innings. It’s hard to argue that Rivera was the greatest Relief Pitcher of all time, he just didn’t throw that many innings. Wilhelm, Fingers, and Gossage are all in the Hall of Fame, but it took Wilhelm 8 ballots to get in, Fingers got in on his 2nd time on the ballot, and Gossage had to wait until his 9th year. Rivera was never considered the best pitcher in baseball.
We find it very interesting that Rivera was not only a 1st ballot Hall of Famer, but that he’s the first unanimous selection in history, earning 100% of votes cast. Think about that for a minute, nobody has ever gotten 100% of the votes. Not Willie Mays, not Babe Ruth, not Walter Johnson, not even Cy Young! Does anybody really think Mariano Rivera belongs in that league? We at A Sip of Sports would have eventually voted for Rivera, but no way would he be given an affirmative vote in his first year of eligibility. Henry Aaron, Honus Wagner, Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson are all 1st ballot Hall of Famers, no way Mariano Rivera belongs in that company.
That’s four “No’s” on the players selected. None of them were bad selection, in fact two of them we would definitely vote for next year (Halladay and Rivera). How about the other players on the ballot? Anybody we would have voted “Yes” on who didn’t get in? There’s three: Curt Schilling, Jeff Kent, and Fred McGriff. Schilling seems to be hampered because sportswriters do not like his political positions. He’s a little short with only 216 career wins, but, like Halladay, he had some big seasons. 22-6 in 2001 (when his D-Backs won their only World Series) 23-7 in 2002, and 21-6 in 2004 (when his Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918). His career WAR is 79.6. This was his 7th time on the ballot, and he received 60.9% of the vote, so he has three more opportunities to get in. If the sportswriters would just grow-up, and not let their political biases show, he should get in next year.
Jeff Kent’s failure to garner more than 18.1% of the vote is even more baffling. His 377 career Home Runs is the most ever by a 2nd baseman. His 1518 RBI is 3rd most by a 2nd basemen, behind A-List Hall of Famers, Rogers Hornsby and Nap Lajoie. His defense was marginal, but not as bad as Hornsby’s. He was about average. If he would be elected he would be in the middle of pack for Hall of Fame 2nd Baseman. Behind Joe Morgan, Jackie Robinson, and Rod Carew, but ahead of Nellie Fox, Tony Lazzeri, and Bill Mazeroski. This was his 6th time on the ballot, so he has four more chances, but he needs to start increasing his votes rapidly to get in.
Fred McGriff would have gotten our vote because this was his last opportunity. He’s near the bottom of HOF 1st Baseman, but was better than many (George Kelly, Jim Bottomley, Frank Chance, and Tony Perez). Kelly and Bottomley were poor selections, but Chance and Perez are both legit. He should be in.
As for the rest near the top of the ballot: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa will always be “NOs” due PED use here at A Sip of Sports. Gary Sheffield also had his PED problems, but we’re not sure his were knowingly. We are ready to withhold judgement for a few more years (his numbers clearly qualify). Larry Walker would get our vote next year, his 10th and final time on the ballot. Omar Visquel was not a Hall of Famer on his best day, so he is a permanent “no”. This was only Scott Rolens 2nd time on the ballot, not sure how we would eventually vote on him, but we have 8 more years to decide. This was Todd Helton’s 1st year on the ballot, so he’s a “no” for now, but confident he will eventually be a “yes”. Billy Wagner was a “Closer”, so by definition he was overrated. He was one of the best of his generation, but, of course, he’s behind Mariano Rivera. The worst relief pitcher in the Hall is Rollie Fingers, and Wagner was better than him. Since this is only his 4th year, we have six more years to decide. The other two remaining on the ballot are Andy Pettitte and Andruw Jones. Neither one seems to have a compelling argument to be enshrined.
As for the other “controversial” candidates:
Joe Jackson is a emphatic “NO”- He took $10,000 from gamblers to throw the World Series, and then lied about it in court. There is some evidence that he took the money, but never intended to throw any games. That doesn’t change the fact that he participated in a scam that could of ruined the game forever. That’s not a Hall of Famer.
Pete Rose is another resounding “NO”. Betting on baseball is a death sentence for your baseball life. Rose, who was managing the Reds at the time, knew this when he bet on the Reds (he did bet them to win). No way someone who has a lifetime ban from baseball should be given baseball’s highest honor.
The other Steroid users that have Hall of Fame Numbers, but are no longer on the ballot, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro are a “No”. They cheated, like Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, and Ramirez to honor them would be a black eye for both Baseball and the Hall of Fame.